Trompe le Monde

Tuesday is the day set aside for contemplating the week's new comics releases; let our own Joe McCulloch be your guide, bringing special attention to new projects by Emily Carroll and Gene Luen Yang.

And then read Sean T. Collins on Jillian and Mariki Tamaki's This One Summer, which has gotten the kind of mainstream attention this year that would have been eye-opening a decade ago but now seems almost par for the course, at least for the annual handful of comics that are deemed acceptable to be seen in normal society. Here's Sean:

At the beginning of This One Summer, its main character, Rose, splashes down into her bed, holding her nose and falling backwards as if leaping off a dock into the lake nearby. At the end she and a friend dig a hole in the beach big enough to contain her, and she lies in it, posing for her last picture of the summer -- this is how she wants to remember it. In between, nature, as drawn with preposterous skill by Jillian Tamaki, proves capable of enveloping her without her help. Big summer-night skies, full of stars and moonlight. Bright summer sun, hanging overhead like it will never set again. Wet, heavy summer rain, seemingly just as endless, pouring into puddles drop after drop. Trees and vines and bushes and grass and undergrowth, verdant, overripe to the point of hysteria. The lake, which is alternately drawn dominating a spread vertically like a monolith, suspending the joyous bodies of tumbling teenagers in its inviting murk, and enveloping them like a sunlit shroud when they no longer wish to be found. Against this brush-stroke backdrop stand Rose and the other impeccably cartooned characters, whose stylized simplicity (relatively speaking; no sense that these are real people is lost) when juxtaposed with those wall-of-sound environments makes them feel like inner tubes bobbing in the water, or stones tossed in it. Immersion is This One Summer's strength, and it works alarmingly well for the story that cousin-collaborators Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki are telling. It's a young-adult graphic novel, and young adults are constantly tossed into new circumstances by forces beyond their control, from puberty to parents. Out of their depth, do they sink or swim?

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Commentary. George Gene Gustines at The New York Times has a very rosy-eyed look at digital and print comics sales, including quotes from Mark Waid, Brian K. Vaughn, and retailer Brian Hibbs.

Jim Geraghty continues the recent spate of comics coverage at National Review (that's the place which hosted the editorial by Amity Shlaes calling for more conservative graphic novels, you might remember; it was "a bit of a manga," to use her expression). Geraghty writes about Marvel's announcement of a female Thor on The View last week, and it's not the Neanderthal-like misogynist response you saw from some dark corners of the internet. Tom Spurgeon has a response to the main thrust. More interesting to me is the fact that Geraghty copies and pastes much of his argument from an article by Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler complaining about the sexualized portrayal of superheroines. What does it mean when the National Review seems to take an ostensibly feminist position? Maybe this just hits the sweet spot of a demographic Venn diagram. Or perhaps reforming and strengthening the appeal of corporate superhero comics is an inherently conservative position.

Adam McGovern at HiLobrow has inaugurated a new series of critical posts on Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics.

Chris Gavaler has photos of comics-related murals in Angoulême.

—Giving/Spending Opportunities. Both Justin Green and Bob Levin note that July 25 is S. Clay Wilson's birthday, and provide information for fans and well-wishers who want to send letters or financial help. Wilson is still ailing after a 2008 head injury.

Steve Ditko has a new Mr. A Kickstarter. Gabrielle Bell is was selling original art from her "Oslo Diary". Dane Martin has an online store.

The Baffler, which was one of the best publications of the '90s, and which recently resurrected itself, has just put its entire archives online. The New York Times writes about the move, illustrating their article with a Joe Sacco drawing. TCJ readers may be interested to read a 1995-era Gary Groth piece excoriating Quentin Tarantino.


No Driver

Today on the site Mike Dawson presents his latest installment of TCJ Talkies. This time out: A conversation with Julia Wertz about Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? and Joe Matt's Spent.

And I wrote a review of The Bungle Family.


It's old home week on the internet: Matthew Thurber has launched an Etsy site to sell his original art. There are some great deals to be had. And Anya Davidson drew a wonderful comic strip tribute to The Ramones.

Ever wonder what our Seattle collaborator Kristy Valenti does? Now you know.

And finally, Tom Spurgeon presents his annual guide to this weekend's Comic Con.


Secure Professionals

First, Jeff Trexler sums up the latest moves by Marvel and provides legal analysis of the Kirby family's Supreme Court filing. (As always with such things, it is important to remember that what is legal and what is moral are often two different things.) Here's how he begins:

On Monday, July 14, Marvel filed its response in the Kirby family case, and the main points were rather predictable — in fact, this article is an updated version of an unpublished draft from last week, and there wasn’t much new to add. In short, Marvel makes a standard procedural argument aimed at disqualifying the family’s new legal claims, while the rest of the brief contends that the Second Circuit applied long-established law regarding work made for hire under the Copyright Act of 1909.

As noted in my previous post, Kirby family attorney Marc Toberoff's Supreme Court filing and the supporting amicus briefs are not immune from such attacks, and to get a fuller sense of what the Court may do next we’ll explore not just Marvel’s brief, but additional means by which the Court itself could trump the Kirby family’s central arguments. But before we begin, a quick caveat: this article is not a prediction that Marvel will win, though the odds are decidedly in its favor. Betting on a Supreme Court case is like betting on the World Cup - the arguments you like may seem perfectly reasonable on paper, but you could just as easily lose in a historic blow-out.

And Rob Kirby reviews Mike Dawson's Angie Bongiolatti:

Angie Bongiolatti follows a group of twenty-something New Yorkers in 2002, most of whom work at an "e-learning" start-up, as they confront, explore, argue over, and try on for size an array of personal and political belief systems, credos, and values. Dawson juxtaposes the group’s groping-for-answers with illustrated excerpts from the writings of Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian-British writer and journalist with a very definitive worldview. In one manifesto Koestler states: "there is little difference between a revolutionary and a traditionalist faith… all true faith is uncompromising, radical, purist." He paints true faith in absolute opposition to the status quo. Angie Bongiolatti, the still center of this motley crew, seems to embody this statement.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The always bewildering Harvey Awards nominations have been announced.

Heidi MacDonald is attempting to crowdfund The Beat, and that site's Brandon Schatz analyzes Image's new retailer incentives.

Alan Moore is expanding his efforts to disrupt profits for terrible comic-book movies.

Uncivilized Books has introduced its new Uncivilized Books Lab.

—Bryan Lee O'Malley is interviewed on Inkstuds, and his new book Seconds is reviewed by Douglas Wolk and Abhay Khosla.

—Reviews & Commentary. Rebecca Traister addresses the move to temporarily make Thor a woman in less than a dozen words inside a much, much longer essay on media sexism in general, which seems about the right estimate of its significance.

Chris Mautner picks six of his favorite 2014 books so far, and Rob Kirby rounds up some minicomics.

—Misc. The Onion takes on today's entitled young cartoonists.

Tom Scioli talks to CBR about quitting comics and coming back.

Bully highlights one of the many times Kim Thompson was right.


Press Pause

Hi there,

Today on the site Frank Santoro presents an interview with Twelve Gems author Lane Milburn by Ben Humeniuk. Twelve Gems is an excellent new space opera graphic novel that highlights Lane's goofy sense of humor, lush drawings, and cosmic character and scenerio designs. Anyhow, here's a taste:

How does a painterly approach translate to meticulous black-and-white linework like in Twelve Gems? Do you try to maintain the same mindset when you’re relying on hatching and spotted blacks as when you’re working with a range of values and tones? Is there any frustration in that process?

I do try to maintain the same mindset as with painting though it’s translated into the realm of black ink and print.  I think it all comes down to my love of texture.  In a painting you can give the surface a rich physical texture and I try to translate that effect into my comics through the use of stippling and hatching.  I was home in Kentucky recently and I saw one of my old paintings on the wall.  The paint was daubed on just like stippling!  I love how these realms bleed together.

Did you conceive it as one big book or as serial installments? Didn’t you publish the first chapter in an issue of CCC?

Yeah, I drew a sort of preliminary story in CCC 9 featuring two of the main characters.  When I started working on the book I had envisioned it as a series, and now it’s hard for me to imagine why.  I feel it works just fine as a standalone graphic novel.  Sometimes I envision projects that just go on and on and on and on… maybe one day I’ll do a series, who knows?

And Max Robinson reviews James Stokoe's Wonton Soup.

The premise of Wonton Soup is familiar by design; culinary prodigy-turned-slacker Johnny Boyo and dreadlocked, sex-craved sidekick Deacon Vans carry exotic freight across the galaxy, stumbling into adventures and generally trying to put some distance between them and their respective homeworlds. The book exists in the background of universes like Dune or Alien, it’s Star Wars if The Empire Strikes Back spent its run time following that  Ice Cream Machine Guy in Cloud City instead of Luke and Leia.

Elsewhere in the internet cosmos:

Here's a good review of the new S. Clay Wilson book, which deserves all good things.

TCJ-contributor Bob Levin has his very own web site now. Go and spend time with Bob.

Speaking of Bob, he recently reviewed Ariel Schrag's new novel, Adam. The author herself talks about here.

There are a ton of wonderful new comics on Believed Behavior. Go and enjoy.

Jared Gardner on a handful of otherwordly graphic novels.

And Publishers Weekly has a Fall 2014 books roundup, including one I'd not heard about: a Puck collection from IDW.



There are a lot of Bryan Lee O'Malley interviews out there in support of his new Seconds, but don't miss the one we're publishing today, conducted by Dash Shaw. Here's a sample exchange:

Do you think of yourself as combining Canadian cartooning like Seth with Japanese cartooning like Rumiko Takahashi?

I don't know what I think of my work, and I'm sure Seth would bristle at any comparison (ha ha) but sure, that's a cute notion. My trajectory as a reader in the 90s took me from superheroes to manga to American indies like Bone, and then belatedly discovering Seth and Chester [Brown] was the last piece of the puzzle for me. They brought the world of comics basically to my doorstep. I don't think the notion of a story like Scott Pilgrim would have crossed my mind before I read It's a Good Life if you Don't Weaken, just based on setting alone. It was a real "duh" moment for me.

If you showed the Bryan Lee O'Malley of 2004 who just drew Lost At Sea a copy of Seconds, what would he think? What would surprise him about the work he'd do ten years later?

Since I had Scott Pilgrim going, and the idea for Seconds was already in my head, I don't think 2004 me would be too surprised by 2014 me's work. I think the story of my work in the past ten years makes sense and is exactly what I set out to do. Most of those influences were already in place, except maybe Tezuka, who I didn't get heavily into until around 2007. But overall I'm just really happy with Seconds and pleased with the state of my drawing and writing and the whole thing. Maybe that's simple- minded, but it's the first time I've felt that way about my work.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Reviews & Commentary. Anthony Meloro illuminatingly compares a spread from a 1970s action comic to one from today. Dana Jennings responds to Witzend. Rachel Cooke reviews Roz Chast. This Austin English review in comics form of the new Tamaki & Tamaki book is fruitful to think about. Martin de la Iglesia compares early English and German manga translations.

—Interviews. Emily Yoshida interviews Bryan Lee O'Malley for Grantland. Mimi Pond is a guest on Bullseye. Alex Dueben talks to Katherine Roeder about her new Winsor McCay book.

—Misc. Per Martin Wisse, it looks like the comic store Lambiek may have to move locations or worse. Joyce Brabner is auctioning off many of the late Harvey Pekar's jazz CDs to help raise money for a local Cleveland family. Here is a gender breakdown of contributors to Houghton Mifflin's Best American Comics series. Sam Adams has a bit more on that Charles Burns Black Hole appearance in the latest Planet of the Apes movie. This Tumblr has a lot of good underground comix images. Does anyone know where to find a YouTube clip of the time Marvel went on Merv Griffin to announce that Thor was turning into a frog?


The Big D

Today on the site it's Joe McCulloch to bring you good tidings and cheer. Also: comics.


New Gabrielle Bell comic and interview. Today is a good day.

I was reminded by a friend of the great zine-maker Jeff Zenick. He has a web site that's pretty fun to explore.

Here's a piece rear-guarding the forthcoming George Lucas museum. That guy has a lot of important illustration and comic book art, from Herriman to Kirby to Rockwell. What he shows and he shows it could be fascinating. Lord knows there are plenty of other rich guys naming museums after themselves with a lot worse taste.

Oh that Captain Marvel!

I don't know why I actually read this. I didn't know Hellblazer had sex in or out of the comics. But some version of 16 year-old me was intrigued. Fire hands! In more showbiz newz, Charles Burns apparently is to thank for human-ape peace.

Apparently Archie is being killed. I would feign outrage, but if you care you are doing it wrong.


Great Pain

Annie Murphy is here today with an interview with the preeminent creator of true crime comics, Rick Geary. Here's a bit of their discussion:

Sherlock Holmes is pretty big right now—as are detective stories in general. But Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who similarly laid out all of the information for the crime buffs, his glory was to wrap it all up in the end and tell you the answers. He let the reader feel smugness at their own correct conclusions, and shock at the surprises. Whereas, you leave your stories open-ended. What is it about this that appeals to you?

I guess it's just the way my sensibility goes. I like questions more than answers. And I like mysteries more than solutions. I'm a big reader of mystery fiction as well. And I find, in a lot of them the solution is kind of a disappointment. I like being carried along by the mystery of it. Because there's so much in life that's mysterious and I like the idea of laying out all the elements of a case, all the clues, and making that aspect of it as clear as possible. And still it's a mystery. I don't know, my mind just kind of falls in that direction. I don't know how else to explain it.

Well, I consider comics a subjective medium. If it's one creator, they are creating the story, characters, narrative arc, and all of the images. But I've noticed in your books that you do quite a good job maintaining an objective perspective. Is that something you value highly?

Yeah, I try to maintain a kind of journalistic distance. But at the same time, it can't help but be subjective. Because I decide what details to include and what to leave out, what to emphasize. In fact, the very first two books that I did, the first two graphic novels in the series, the one on Jack the Ripper and the one on Lizzie Borden, they were told from within a fiction framework. I don't know if you read those, but--

I did, but it's been a while...

They're both kind of told by this fictional person. The Jack the Ripper book is in the form of a journal being kept by a fictional English gentleman. And then the Lizzie Borden one is from the point of view of this woman I made up who was supposedly a neighbor of the Bordens, a friend of the Bordens, who was telling the story. And after that one my publisher came to me and said: “This is kind of a problem. It makes the books fall into this crack between fiction and nonfiction, and they don't know how to classify them.” So from then on I adopted more of a journalistic outlook. Or as close as I could anyway; more of an objective viewpoint.

AND A QUICK NOTE FROM MICHAEL DEAN: If your name is Bob White and you took a photo of Robert Crumb and Gary Groth in the Journal's offices in California circa 1985, please contact The Comics Journal at dean "at" Thanks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Annie Koyama is a guest on the Make It Then Tell Everybody podcast. Jaime Hernandez and Frederik Peeters are two of the most recent guests on Inkstuds. Pádraig Ó Méalóid talks to Kate Charlesworth, collaborator on the most recent book by Mary and Bryan Talbot. 13th Dimension interviews Jim Chadwick about the new digital editions of Jiro Kuwota's Batman manga.

—Reviews & Commentary.
Robert Boyd has not one but two of his infrequent comics-related posts up, one on two recent books of comics history by Thierry Smolderen and Dan Mazur & Alexander Danner, and another on the comics issue of Artforum and the artist Erró's appropriation of Brian Bolland artwork. Tom Spurgeon reflects on Walt Before Skeezix and the new collection of early Bungle Family strips. (When I accused Dan this weekend of disliking every comics-related book published since the shutdown of PictureBox, he cited two books that he liked, one of which was The Bungle Family.) Tezuka biographer Helen McCarthy reviews Jonathan Clement's Anime: A History. Mark Fraenfelder recommends R. Crumb's The Weirdo Years.


Serious Charges!

Some site news: We're going to keep the comments on this site, moderate them with much more rigor (as we've been doing the past 10 days or so, with good results), and eliminate the "Blood & Thunder" box on the homepage. Comments will now only be seen underneath the posts. We're also fixing that nesting system. We may still be making a few additional changes based on reader suggestions, and are looking into the logistics for all of this. Thanks for all your feedback. It was very helpful.

Today Rob Clough talks to comics retailer and owner of Chapel Hill Comics Andrew Neal, who, as of today, is retiring from the business.

Was running the store starting to become a bit of a grind or boring? Given that you have a number of potential projects lined up but nothing definitive, I was wondering if there was something you felt you were missing out on as a result of the effort it took to run the store. Was there any event or trend in particular that encouraged you to sell?

I wouldn’t say that running the store had become boring, but it was definitely a grind. The weekly nature of comics retail is a double-edged sword. It ensures that customers return to the store on a regular basis, but it also means it’s hard to take a break, especially for people like me, who aren’t great at delegation.

I have loved running the store, but I’m ready to try something else. I think the simplest way to put it is that I still love comics, but I’m kind of burnt out on retail. Dan, the previous owner, pointed out to me that we each sold the store after twenty years of involvement, so maybe that’s when Comics Retail Burnout occurs?

I don’t know that I ever felt like I was missing out on anything, though. I feel exceptionally lucky and grateful to have been able to work with this medium that I love, to meet customers, retailers and creators, to use comic book money to pay the bills, and then to cash in the business. How many other people get to say anything like that about their lives?


In more news about ourselves, Comics Comics has been restored to its former self after a nasty hacking incident. So go forth and read us when we were young and excited.

Meanwhile, here's a nice long interview with Francoise Mouly over at The Rumpus.

On the other end of the spectrum is this post about Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1. Along those lines is this nice image-heavy birthday tribute to Murphy Anderson.

Hey, Jim Rugg has a handsome new zine for sale.

Not even close to comics: I loved this piece about an exhibition at The Jewish Museum. The last paragraphs are particularly wonderful as we think about what we exhume from history and what we don't. Wait, it's probably too late to think about that now for some of us, but for you kids out there, think about it.

And finally, I could watch Terry Gilliam talk about animation for a long time.